10 Things Landlords Need to Know About Handling Repair Requests

No one likes the unknown, especially when it comes to shelling out money.

The same is true of repair and maintenance costs on a rental property, which can easily spiral out of control if tenant requests are not monitored and handled appropriately.

Here are some tips for getting a handle on tenant maintenance and repair requests:

1. Every repair request should be documented. If possible, a repair request form should be used. Note the date and time when the request is received. If requests are taken over the phone, make a written note of the conversation in the tenant file. Repair requests need to contain enough information to determine how urgent the problem is and how to prioritize requests. A landlord or manager needs to know who to send in to fix the problem — and where to send them.

2. Respond quickly to every repair request. Evaluate the urgency, and give the tenant an estimated time for the scheduled repair. If the request is a low priority, at the very least assure the tenant that the request has been noted and will be completed at a later date.

3. Follow up after the service date to see if the tenant is happy with the repair.

4. Track overall maintenance in a master file, with copies of the requests in the tenant’s file. Property owners need to flag tenants who are making too many requests, and at the same time, they may need to show the overall maintenance history on the property.

5. Vendors need to be vetted before they get access to tenants’ units. Not only do they need to be safe, but these workers need to be briefed on proper customer service.

6. Make sure there is a record — preferably written — that proves that the tenant was given notice or consented to having a worker perform repairs.

7. When tenants are present during repairs, they tend to add on other requests directly with the vendor. Make sure vendors are trained to stay on task and not run up the bill on undocumented repairs.

8. Avoid situations where tenants request repairs or maintenance directly from a vendor, or supervise repairs.

9. The lease should be clear on what maintenance the tenant is responsible for completing. Keep records of any items that should come out of the tenant’s security deposit. Discuss these repairs with the tenant in advance to avoid legal disputes.

10. Some tenants persist in requesting repairs that appear frivolous. These tenants will never be happy, and can spread their dissatisfaction to other tenants in the building, or to prospective tenants over the Internet. Consider whether it may be financially prudent to offer to terminate the problem tenant’s lease early and look for a more suitable tenant.

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